Leaders of Christian churches are appealing PM Jean Chrétien to press for an immediate, unilateral moratorium on the NATO bombing campaign

Tuesday, April 13 1999

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you as leaders of Christian churches, appealing to you to press for an immediate, unilateral moratorium on the NATO bombing campaign. We are conscious of the heavy responsibilities you are carrying on this difficult question, and of the serious debate that took place in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, we appeal to you to replace the current strategy with renewed diplomatic efforts to reach a negotiated solution.

Our church colleagues in the Vatican, in churches throughout Europe and Russia, and particularly in the Balkans have appealed to NATO, to the Serbs and to the Albanian Kosovars to stop all military action and begin dialogue immediately. They also appealed to all parties to restrict themselves to non-violent means to achieve a just settlement to the conflict, as well as
to protect vulnerable people. We join them in that appeal.

Our concern has been deepened by our church partnerships in the region and by our knowledge of people caught in the situation. It has been heightened by our experience of Holy Week and Easter, when we celebrated again the mystery of One who suffered and died so that all people everywhere should experience God’s gift of reconciliation, justice, and peace. To spurn that offered gift in favour of violence is morally and spiritually wrong.

As Christians, we believe that all human persons constitute one world-wide family. All people, within and beyond our borders, are our neighbours. Therefore, we have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect fellow human beings when they are in great danger of human rights violations or of being caught in the path of warring parties. As a consequence of that responsibility, we have in principle supported Canada’s interventionist role in defence of human rights and in peacebuilding. In the present case, we can not support the means.

In principle, we also support Canada’s determination to see that human rights violators are vigorously prosecuted under international law. The moral issue for people and for states committed to peace and human rights is finding the means that will help build, and not undermine, the conditions that undergird peace and security for people and effective respect for their human rights.

We recognize that in the present situation in former Yugoslavia every course of action, including non-violent and diplomatic means, will produce tragedies. The challenge is to do the difficult work of finding the means that are best suited in this particular situation to the restoration of peace and justice. NATO bombing has only escalated the tragedy and created a starker humanitarian catastrophe.

We urge you to give leadership in seeking a wider range of diplomatic alternatives. For example: we believe it is urgent to shift the political focus of diplomacy out of NATO and into the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), whose membership includes all of NATO, as well as Russia and all the other states affected by this crisis. Canada needs to take advantage of its hard-won position on the Security Council, calling on it to perform the central overseeing role in the diplomatic and humanitarian response to the crisis. Canada’s formal commitment to human security makes diplomatic activism along these lines plausible. Our role in NATO bombing undermines it.

Our church members, like many other Canadians, are stepping forward to offer their support to people displaced by the bombing and by Serbian military action. They are also standing by to receive refugees who choose to come here. They tell us how much they appreciate the government’s efforts to protect displaced people in the affected region, as well as to offer refugees a place in Canada if they choose to come. But we also want to convey to you the horror people have expressed to us as they have witnessed the effects of these military actions on men, women, and children.

You who bear the heavy burden of governing are faced with the difficult recognition that, while a great good was sought, in fact a great evil has been done. In this moment we urge you as the Prime Minister of our country to stop, reconsider, and carefully change direction.


The Most Rev. Michael G. Peers
Anglican Church of Canada

Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, PH
General Secretary
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian
Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church

Dr. Helmut Harder
General Secretary
Conference of Mennonites in Canada

Bishop Telmor Sartison
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Rigth Rev. Seraphim
Bishop of Ottawa and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Gale Wills, Clerk
Canadian Yearly Meeting
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Rev. Dr. William Klempa
Moderator of the 124th General Assembly
The Presbyterian Church in Canada

The Very Rev. Bill Phippps
United Church of Canada